Unlike most people here it seems, I was not born and raised in Pittsburgh. But I have lived in Pittsburgh now for nearly two decades. I am a transplant from a small town in Western New York, a little farming village tucked snugly between Buffalo and Rochester with a population of 800 friendly locals.
When I was in graduate school in Albany, NY I visited Pittsburgh for the first time. I came here twice. Once for St. Patrick's Day (party in Market Square) and once for the Regatta (party on a bridge). I fell in love. Any city that closes a bridge down to have a party sounded like a good place for my 22-year-old self to live. Graduate degree in hand and no clear sign pointing me in any particular direction (and by sign I mean I had no job) I decided to move here.
And I haven't looked back since.
What I have found in Pittsburgh is home. It checks every box on my list. And I've made a second career here at PittsburghMom out of helping spread the good news that is Pittsburgh. From the culture to the landscape to the people, it's everything my now 41-year-old self could want in a city.
For Kids and the Family
I think it's obvious that I find Pittsburgh to be a wonderful place to raise a family. That's the reason I started PittsburghMom nearly seven years ago. Not only do we have friendly people and excellent schools, but it's also a fun city to live in (or to visit) with kids.
People often comment that we are "always on the go" and are "never home". My answer to that is usually that there is just so much good stuff to do here that staying home seems like a waste of a perfectly good day, a perfectly good city. Some of our favorite haunts are the Carnegie Science Center (we have a membership to all of the Carnegie Museums and go often. Many people think the Science Center is only good for older kids, but I disagree. We've been taking our boys since they were quite young and even though they couldn't necessarily understand the science, they enjoyed playing with all of the hands-on exhibits while my husband and I enjoyed ourselves learning new things) and the Children's Museum (it really is one of the most wonderful Children's Museums I've ever been to. We especially love the "garage" room to tinker and race cars and the water play room). The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium has provided countless hours of both entertainment and education for our kids (and us). We have a membership there, as well, and have even been known to go just for an hour or two to slide down the awesome slides in the Kids Kingdom. Smaller, but still worth a visit are the National Aviary (who can resist those adorable penguins!?) and Phipps Conservatory. I thought my kids would be bored with the flowers at Phipps, but upon our arrival the front desk handed them a little scavenger hunt and I could barely drag them out of there when we were finished.
Throw in some summer fun like the North Shore water steps, PPG fountain, Kennywood and Idlewild parks and can you see why we never stay home? This is just such a robust city filled with children's activities. Every time we travel we travel I look up activities for families and I dare say that most cities don't come close to the amount of family-friendly activities as Pittsburgh.
For Date Night
As much as we love love the short people in our lives (those would be the aforementioned kids) we do love to get out together as adults. We've found plenty of options to keep us entertained on those rare evenings we get out alone. From the Improv and a stroll around the Waterfront, to dinner and a try at our luck at the Rivers Casino there are always great over-21 choices. From a plethora of theaters in the Cultural District (I'm not sure I've ever seen a bad show. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is such a fantastic resource) to other live music venues like Jergels in the North Hills or the new Latitude 40 in Robinson; whether we're in the mood for something low key and quiet or rocking and loud, Pittsburgh can serve it up.
And speaking of serving it up, we could eat our way around this city and never stop. We make it a point to try new restaurants whenever we can, and lately trying them all just seems an impossible task. There are so many amazing new restaurants in town. We try to take advantage during the bi-annual Restaurant Week celebration and rely on our friends at Yelp!Pittsburgh and EatPgh to help sway our choices.
For Running & Biking & Kayaking
Now that we've covered how much I like to eat, it's obvious that I need to exercise. A lot. Both my husband and I really enjoy the outdoors and try as much as we can to be an active family. We are both runners and enjoy biking, hiking and kayaking for fun with the kids. I can't tell you how much I love to run in the Burgh. I have my choice of trails with hills, trails in the woods, or trails with beautiful city views. I've been training for some fall half marathons which means I've been running a lot. I spend my time alternating between North Park (both North Park and South Park have so much to offer; hiking trails, running paths, playgrounds, picnic pavilions, swimming pools, and so much more), Hartwood Acres (such gorgeous woods and challenging hills!), the North Shore Trail (with the most breathtaking views of the city - the picture at the top of this post was taken on a run one day on that trail) which is technically part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail (which I also run between Station Square and the South Side Works. It's great for biking, too). Another two favorites of ours for running or biking with the kids are the flat, wooded and gorgeous Butler Freeport Trail and the Montour Trail. If you don't have your own bike, that's not a problem, you can rent bikes easily in Pittsburgh through Venture Outdoors or Bike Pittsburgh.
For the People
It goes without saying that Pittsburghers are friendly. They're friendly whether you're from here or not. I felt welcomed here from the very first day I stepped foot in town. As a professional here, I find this a great place to live and work. I belong to several organizations and as a "public relations" professional, I find myself out networking with lots and lots of people. What strikes me is that Pittsburgh is very much a small town in a big town's body. Everyone seems to know everyone. And that's a great thing. It's like a big family. Whether I'm trying to find someone to help with my annual Toy Drive, or looking to hire an adjunct to teach a class at Point Park, or to hook a student up with a potential employer or a mom up with a resource for her child's needs, I know it's only a phone call away in Pittsburgh. I love that about this city. While I've only been in a position to really meet and network like this for five or so years, I've gotten to know so many people who know so many people. Now no matter where I go it seems I know someone. And everyone is nice. And helpful. And welcoming. Through organizations like PUMP and Leadership Pittsburgh I've met some of the most influential yet down to earth people I can imagine. Whether it's my Vice President or the mom next door, these people are my people. These people are just good people. These people are Pittsburghers.
For Playing Tour Guide
I love it when friends come to visit. I'm very proud of what we have to offer here. I love taking them downtown to see the city and the views. A visit to Pittsburgh in my mind wouldn't be complete without a trip to Station Square. Everyone has to ride the incline and see the city from Mount Washington. I try to take our guests on a Gateway Clipper cruise to see the rivers and hear some history of the region. And then I love to show them a unique spot for dinner or drinks like the Church Brew Works for Penn Brewery, which are two of our favorites uniquely Pittsburgh spots. We treat art lovers to the Warhol Museum, and history lovers to the Frick House and the Heinz History Center. And for everyone else, there are numerous festivals, fairs and other activities to partake in year round.
This summer we took our family on a 3-week road trip around the country. We visited over a dozen cities and it really gave me a new-found appreciation for all things Pittsburgh. What we have here is a gorgeous city with beautiful buildings and lovely hillsides. Extremely friendly people and lots of interesting, fun and culturally significant things to do. Great schools and safe neighborhoods, too. Who could really ask for anything more in a city?
You may have noticed that I didn't mention sports and this post it all. Obviously Pittsburgh is a huge sports town and we have a couple of the most beautiful stadiums there are. In fact, I am not a sports lover at all, but I will go to several Pirates games every summer simply for the view.
I was really struck when we traveled this summer that a lot of people, upon finding out where we were from, still had this vision of Pittsburgh as a smoky, dingy steel city. If they only knew how clean and beautiful and fun it was.
Maybe we shouldn't tell them. Maybe we should keep it to ourselves so it won't get too crowded. I don't want to wait in line too long for the Kangaroo :)
I know I'm gushing, but I just can't say it enough. I'm glad I moved here. It's home to me now and I'm so thankful for the people here who provide the opportunities that exist here.
I may not have been born and raised here. But my kids will be. And I'm proud of that.